This study of America’s leading type foundry of the nineteenth century, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, emphasizes the design of the hundreds of typefaces that were produced by the foundry, from its inception in the 1860s until its merger with most other American foundries at the end of the century. The author describes how changing business conditions and technical improvements in type founding interacted with changes in public taste over the decades to modify the appearance of American typefaces.
While MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan is only one of many American foundries, it can stand as an exemplar of the rest. It was the descendant of the first successful American type foundry, Binny and Ronaldson, started in Philadelphia in 1796, and set many industry standards in business practice, manufacturing, and design. When taste turned away from ornamented type styles at the end of the nineteenth century, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan’s output fell into obscurity. This study proposes that the earlier styles were very successful in their own time and should be judged on that basis. A completely illustrated appendix showing MS&J’s original typeface designs accompanies the text.